Yesterday, I was kind of half-listening to a band on television and they were really upset about people downloading their music for free off the Internet. They said it was like if you went into a record store, loaded up your arms with all the CDs you could carry, and then left without paying whistling “See ya, suckers! Be back tomorrow!”

They certainly have a point. It never feels good when someone steals from you or if you don’t get compensated for the job you do. But I’m not sure it’s as black and white as downloading bad, buying CDs good. Yes, if you’ve got plenty of money, I would say it is that black and white, buy the CDs.

But what about the poor people? What about me!?

When I was a kid I went through that whole “crazy for the lead singer” phase. It started with John Travolta and the soundtrack from Grease when I was just a bitty gal. I soon graduated to an 8-track tape (remember those?) of Shaun Cassidy in my tween years. Really got rolling with Rick Springfield, John Mellencamp (or Cougar as he was known then) and Bryan Adams in my early teens. And later it was a full-out battle of the bands with the likes of The Monks, XTC, The Ramones, The Clash, Def Leppard, Platinum Blonde, Bon Jovi, Poison and Whitesnake.

Ohhh, the good old days. [*Sigh*] I had albums, cassettes, posters, magazines and “lead singer du jour” paraphenelia up the ying-yang, thanks to the kindness and generosity of my parents. But eventually all things must end, and so I struck out on my own to learn the value of a buck.

I was a slow learner. It took me awhile to comprehend that if you don’t pay the telephone bill, one day you pick up to call home for the monthly “Can I please borrow some money?” conversation and there’s no dial tone. But eventually I did learn valuable financial lessons like books and tapes are nice but they don’t take your hunger away, you can buy a lot of Kraft Dinner for the price of a single bottle of perfume, and heat is vital to existence during the long Canadian winter.

But I’m off-topic, what I’m trying to say is that once I left home and had to pay for my own albums, I stopped buying them. Not because I no longer liked music but I couldn’t afford to buy an entire album without knowing whether I’d like it or not. So, I got away from it, I made other choices. When you’ve only got limited funds to spend on entertainment for yourself, you want to get the most value for your buck.

There have been brief moments of financial freedom where I’ve chanced it and dared to buy an album without knowing for sure whether I would like it or not. But I’m a writer! Those moments have been few and far between and mostly filled with the latest Mellencamp because I’ll probably like it no matter what.

Then came the Internet and access to all the music in the world (albeit from a 56k modem dial-up connection.)

So, you would think I’d be all set now, that I’d never buy another CD, (downloaded anything lately on dial-up? lol) but actually the exact opposite has happened. While I’m not the obsessed fan of my youth, I’m buying more CDs than I have in years. The free and easy Internet access helps me to find artists I might not have heard of otherwise, to explore different types of music I probably never would have gotten into before, and to make more informed choices when I go to buy CDs.

For me, file sharing programs like Kazaa, Morpheus, and the old Napster are like a trip to the sample table at the supermarket — I taste, I like, I buy.

What do you think about downloading music off the Internet? Is it a black or white issue or do you see the grey? Comments anyone?

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